On Sanguines and the Desire to Do It All

I think I jumped in too quickly. And I'm sick about it.

It’s a pitfall common to sanguines. Bless our hearts, we chose fun over reality every time.

Certainly, I’ve learned. Over the years, I’ve learned the value of restraint and patience. I credit Corey and the Holy Spirit with teaching me to think and pray about a decision before I excitedly yet blindly dive in.

But this time.... Sigh.

It all started when I saw the announcement in our church bulletin that a leader was needed on Wednesday nights for the 4th and 5th grade girls. Natalie is in 4th grade. I love that girl so much, and I miss her something fierce lately. She is always around, but with three other kids in the home – all of them needier than her – I rarely get to sit and just enjoy her. I wondered if stepping in to lead her small group wouldn’t give me some of that focused time with my daughter that I crave and help the church at the same time.

Sounds good, right? Wednesday night children’s programming is a staple in the Midwest. It’s like Sunday school only more fun. The nursery would be open for the younger kids. Connor could be in the Wednesday night program for first graders. And it would give us an out-of-the-house activity for those weeks Corey needs to travel.


So I thought about it. I talked to Corey. I prayed. I knew the potential pitfalls, but I didn’t think any of them were insurmountable.

Fun. Let’s go.

And then reality hit.

This past Wednesday was our first night. I estimated we would need to leave our house by 6:00 at the latest, in order to be checked in and in place by 6:30 when the evening’s festivities would begin. I planned an easy dinner (Trader Joe’s pumpkin waffles and homemade sausage; I love brinner) and served it at 5:30, hoping that would be early enough for us to get out the door but late enough that we would still be hungry. (Normal dinner time around here is 6:30 or even 7:00.)

Good plan. But it didn’t work. The kids weren’t hungry. My easy dinner required a lot of clean-up, which I forgot to factor into the equation. Kieran was cranky and wanted to eat. I didn’t have time to feed him and I was hot and flushed from all the rushing.

Thankfully, Corey was home last night, and he stepped in and drove us all to church (through massive rush hour traffic, something else I didn’t factor into my equation). He took Teyla to the nursery while I hustled Natalie and Connor to the Wednesday night ministry where I was supposed to be greeting my girls.

The teaching time itself was fun. The girls are sweet and funny. I didn’t have a lesson prepared, since it was opening night, but we got through OK.

And then it was 8:00, time to go home, and Corey and I gathered up our HYPER children and as soon as we hit the car, the kids started whining, “I’m hungry, Mom. Can we eat something when we get home?” Which, OK, I sympathize with the hungry, but we are already late for bedtime here, and now you want to eat a snack? I don’t think so. And Kieran, bless his little heart, screamed the whole way home because he was so exhausted and once we got out of the car, Corey had to stay on Connor every second to get him to focus on getting into bed. And Teyla was running around like a banshee and she was mad when I tried to nurse Kieran while reading her a story and in the end, it was 10:30 before Teyla and Connor fell asleep. Such was the adrenaline and the general mayhem.

When the house was finally quiet, I fell into a heap on Corey’s neck and said, “I feel HORRIBLE! Tonight was a DISASTER! Why didn’t you warn me? Why did you let my inner sanguine agree to this? Because if tonight was hard, it will be COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE the next few weeks when you are traveling. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?”

He smiled gently and listened to me freak out and suggested some possible solutions. But he agreed, this might not be the season for me to make such a commitment.

I still don’t know what to do. I hate making commitments and then backing out of them. Hate. It. And Natalie would be devastated. She is ecstatic I'm leading her group. She's talked about it every day since.

But I've also learned that doing ministry at the expense of my family doesn't work. It makes us all miserable, and at this point, I don't even think it's right. My children and my husband are my primary ministry right now. If I forsake them to do something else, can I even call it ministry?

I just wish there was a way to do it all.

So says the sanguine.


  1. I'm sorry it didn't go well - boy do I know that feeling. High hopes dashed by reality. Maybe you just need some better logistics, do some stuff ahead, let the clean up go? I think it sounds like a wonderful opportunity for you and your daughter that just needs tweaked. But I do a agree that when we do ministry at the expense of our family, it's not really ministry.

  2. I am a lurker. But I had to come out of hiding to comment. I totally understand and get how you are feeling. I have some suggestions, but don't feel bad if they won't/don't work for you. We have this problem. With some exceptions.

    1) Either skip the afterschool snack that makes the kids not hungry until 7PM or maybe make it a later and heavier (more meal-like) snack. Then carry after church snacks and have the kids eat them on the way home. This way the kids aren't whining about hunger while they are getting ready for bed.

    2) Give incentives for the older kids to get ready for bed quickly and by themselves. Timers work for some kids.

    3) Ask around at church to see if you can find someone to help you with the small group. That way you can maybe even nurse Kieran sometime during the evening. Maybe your helper can greet the girls while you feed Kieran at the beginning.

    4) Remember this...God does not ask you to put church ministry above your family. However, listen to him carefully, because this may be his answering a prayer you have been praying about connecting with Natalie. Because God does call us out of our comfort zones...often.

    You are an amazing mom. I adore reading your blog and have been lurking for awhile now. I just felt that the Spirit wanted me to give you some of the things our family has done to deal with Wednesday night church activities.
    Good Luck. I will say a prayer of guidance for you.

  3. It is SO HARD to be involved in leadership in the church when you've got littles at home. So hard. And it's impossible to foresee all the barriers to getting there on time! Don't beat yourself up over it. It seems that everywhere I've lived, there are people in the church who can, but don't, and people that shouldn't, but do. It's a right shame.
    The others have some great ideas. Pray for a helper, maybe pack a "picnic" dinner to eat at church and leave the house at 5:30. Road snacks are a great idea, too.
    I hope you find your happy medium. :-)

  4. I was going to suggest the same thing as Gina, regarding the eating. Healthy snacks before and after can take the place of dinner once a week. I also think Gina made a good point about this being an opportunity to spend more time with your daughter. My friend with twin girls that are about to be 12 said that 4th grade was a really big year in terms of transition and emotional development, so maybe you felt that pull for a reason.

    When I have felt torn about serving the church, I often think like this: when I imagine NOT doing something, do I feel peaceful or anxious about NOT doing it? That usually helps me. I was on a board of directors for a crisis pregnancy center. I started shortly before I got pregnant with #6. I thought I would be able to continue after he was born. But I dreaded the thought of going to the meetings. I felt like I couldn't give my best to my family or the pregnancy center. So I made the difficult choice to resign, even though I knew how in need of members they were. It was tough, but I felt peace once I made the choice.

    I pray that you find peace with whatever you decide.

  5. I'm a lurker, like Gina - but wanted to jump in to say just a few things: First of all, the first night is always the hardest -- you'll get much better at planning and using the tips already provided to the max.

    Allowing extra time to arrive, and perhaps having an assistant leader will make a huge difference, I'm thinking.

    Is it possible to leave the two youngest ones at home with a fun sitter? Just a thought.

    My kids are now 28, 26, and 24 - but I have memories of evenings just like the one you described. I now enjoy being a 2nd pair of hands for my friends who still have little ones at home. I pray that the Lord provides such a one for you, when your hubby is traveling and you are doing the best you can, flying solo.

    God bless - I agree with the others who posted; this seems like an awesome opportunity to spend time with your oldest. The time, it just goes by too fast.

  6. Healthy snacks are a very good idea. However. From one mom-o-4 to another: nights like these are the reason why God gave us McDonald's.

  7. Great post with terrific timing - just what I needed to hear right now! Thanks!

  8. I've awarded you the One Lovely Blog award. Here's the link: http://mytrampolinelife.blogspot.com/2010/09/one-lovely-blog-award.html. Thanks for your blog. I enjoy reading it.

  9. Sanguine or not - We all fall into this trap from time to time. Our 'mean well' intentions backfire. Sorry you had to go through it, but I needed this reminder :)

  10. Oh my, this is an issue for me right now! I just told my friend tonight that I'm not sure I should be volunteering on Wednesday nights. I love it and the kiddos I teach are sweet, but I still have a 5, 4 and 2 y.o. and yup, you guessed it, my hubby travels sometime as well! I think I'm going with finishing out this semester and then waiting a few years before jumping in again. Such a hard decision! Praying you know what to do.